Italy head into the 2022 Guinness Six Nations looking to build on their first victory under Kieran Crowley during the Autumn Nations Series.
The former Benetton coach took charge of the Azzurri for the first time in November, overseeing defeats to New Zealand and Argentina before victory over Uruguay.
Now the hope is that Crowley can help Italy in the 2022 Championship as they look to build on a promising young generation of players.
With Paolo Garbisi establishing himself as one of the most promising young fly-halves in Europe, pulling the strings for high-flying Montpellier in France, there is certainly talent in Crowley’s side.
And with his predecessor, Franco Smith, now the head of high performance at the FIR, having begun a youth movement, the hope will be that those players who were thrown in at a young age will now have the experience to thrive at Test level.
The competition starts with a daunting trip to Paris on the opening Sunday as Italy take on France, fresh from their win over the All Blacks in November.
The Azzurri have twice beaten France in the Championship, both times in Rome, but are yet to do so in the French capital.
France have finished as runners-up in each of the last two editions of the Championship and will be looking to get over the hump in 2022.
A week later, England head to Rome, again on a Sunday, in Crowley’s first home game in the Guinness Six Nations.
Eddie Jones’ side finished fifth last year, as they failed to defend the title they claimed in 2020, but have since won five games on the spin including back-to-back wins over Australia and South Africa to close out the year.
After the rest week comes a trip to Dublin to take on Ireland, another in-form side who went unbeaten in the Autumn Nations Series. In fact, Italy’s first three fixtures are against the three sides who won every game in November.
Andy Farrell’s side finished the 2021 Guinness Six Nations strongly by beating England to finish third, and should have a good idea of where they stand by the time they get to this game with a home clash against Wales followed by a trip to France.
A second rest week precedes Italy’s other home match in the Championship, welcoming Scotland to the Stadio Olimpico.
Scotland were the last side that Italy beat in the competition, but Gregor Townsend’s team have been on a roll in recent times, including away wins at Twickenham and the Stade de France last year to improve their record on the road.
Super Saturday kicks off in Cardiff, where Italy will round off their campaign away to defending champions Wales.
Wayne Pivac’s men were denied a Grand Slam on Super Saturday a year ago in Paris, but will be keen to make it back-to-back titles in 2022.
Italy’s 2022 Fixtures
Sunday February 6 – France v Italy – Stade de France, Paris
Sunday February 13 – Italy v England – Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Sunday February 27 – Ireland v Italy – Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Saturday March 12 – Italy v Scotland – Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Saturday March 19 – Wales v Italy – Principality Stadium, Cardiff